T he sound of “nyuk, nyuk, nyuk” will be heard across the land when “The Three Stooges” — the Farrelly brothers’ long-awaited tribute to the slapstick comedy legends — opens Friday, introducing the trio to a new generation of knuckleheads. Although Western civilization has long been divided by certain insoluble cultural questions (Ketchup or mustard? Betty or Veronica? Toilet paper — over or under?), there’s never really been any question about which Stooges to bring to the big screen.
“You can’t make the first big-screen studio movie about the Stooges,” said writer-director Peter Farrelly, “without it being Moe, Larry and Curly.”
The fact is, there were a lot of Stooges, if you count everybody who got bopped, boinked and banged around since the act started in 1922.
But the Farrellys are purists — of a sort: Their own Stooge-inspired oeuvre includes “Dumb & Dumber,” “There’s Something About Mary,” “Me, Myself & Irene” and “Hall Pass.” At the same time, in their version of “The Three Stooges,” the characters have a backstory: The three brothers (it was never clear that Larry was anybody’s brother) are not, for instance, dropped on the doorstep of the Sisters of Mercy orphanage. The duffel bag they’re in is thrown from a speeding car. (Upon opening said bag, Sister Mary-Mengele, played by Larry David, gets poked in the eyes by Baby Moe.)
Essentially, said Peter Farrelly, the movie’s stars — Chris Diamantopoulos (“Up All Night,” “24”) as Moe; Sean Hayes (“Will & Grace”) as Larry, and TV vet Will Sasso as Curly — are intended to be “clones” of the originals. This strategy presented one more obstacle to a movie that, since the mid-’90s, has been the subject of discussions that occasionally included the casting of such unlikely personages as Sean Penn and Robert De Niro.
“The Three Stooges” involves the boys trying to save their childhood orphanage (the “Blues Brothers” connection ends there, Farrelly said). The nuns are played by the likes of Jane Lynch, Jennifer Hudson, Kate Upton and, as mentioned, Larry David. The “aesthetic,” so to speak, seems to be pure Stooge: violence and comedy. “First and foremost, we wanted to please hard-core Stooges fans,” Farrelly said. “We figured if we did that, everything else would fall into place.”